Nagarjuna Caves

Nagarjuni Caves - Nāgārjunī - Gopi Caves

Useful Information

Location: in the Nagarjuni Hills, 35 km north of Gaya.
(25.008956, 85.078220)
Open: Site: no restrictions.
Caves: gated.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: bring torch
Guided tours:  
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Nagarjuna Caves.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Entrance of Vapiyaka cave, Nagarjuna Caves, India. Public Domain.

The caves of Nagarjuni hill were built few decades later than the Barabar caves. They were consecrated for the Ajivikas sect by Dasaratha Maurya, Ashoka's grandson and successor. There are three caves, Gopika (Gopi-ka-Kubha) on the southside of the hill and Vadithi-ka-Kubha and Vapiya-ka-Kubha on the northside of the hill. Gopika cave is the largest of all the caves of the Barabar complex, 14 m long and 6 m wide. There are four more caves in the quartzite gneiss monolith named Barabar hill, Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama and Visvakarma. Together the group of caves is called satghar or satgharwa which means seven houses.

Set in wild and inhospitable bandit country are the three mysterious caves of Nagarjuna. An important archaeological site, it has been almost ignored.

The Gopi Cave is the most important and is approached by a flight of steps. A number of inscriptions have been found here. It is believed that in the middle of 19th century, some Islamic saints used to live in these caves.

North of Nagarjuna Hill is Mirza Mandi (house of Mirza) Cave. This cave was excavated during the time of Dasharatha. There is a dry well near this cave and it seems it derived its ancient name ‘Vapuiyaka Kubha' (Cave of the Well) from this. Remains of buildings, probably viharas, can be seen around this site.

The last cave on this hill, Vedathika Kubha can be approached through a natural cleft. In fact, some structural stupas must have existed in at least a few of these caves, as this place was dedicated to Buddhist religious practices.

Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.